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Profiles and abstracts
“Self-Trust and Discriminatory Speech” by Prof Mari Mikkola
The paper considers how a certain type of prejudicial speech, discriminatory speech that reflects social group stereotypes and represents group members as inferior by virtue of these stereotypes, hampers epistemic autonomy in eroding and perverting intellectual self-trust. Freedom of speech is a central liberal value. However, if left unchecked, it can engender morally problematic and socially undesirable expressions. Virulent hate speech can thus be legitimately regulated without compromising free expression. Nonetheless, discriminatory speech is legally protected e.g. in USA. Although this sort of speech is taken to be socially undesirable and harmful in some sense, liberal philosophers have argued for its legal permissibility on the grounds that its harmfulness is mitigable: discriminatory speech (the argument goes) still advances significant and compelling free speech interests due to which it deserves legal protection, despite being odious. The interests typically appealed to include the pursuit of truth and knowledge, ensuring democratic deliberation, and fostering personal autonomy and individual progress. By contrast, I argue that looking at how discriminatory speech seemingly influences us in deeply covert and hard-to-detect ways undermines arguments that advance a ›hands- off‹ policy to discriminatory speech. In short: Intellectual self-trust is a necessary condition for the pursuit of knowledge and for fostering (personal and epistemic) autonomy; but since discriminatory speech erodes and perverts self-trust, it undermines in subtle, covert, and insidious ways the very grounds supposedly justifying its permissibility. This becomes particularly clear once we appreciate how discriminatory expressions shape and maintain prejudicial unconscious influences.
Prof Mari Mikkola is an Associate Professor in the University of Oxford. She works mainly on feminist philosophy and, in particular, on feminist metaphysics and feminist engagements with pornography. Additionally, she has interests in social ontology, broadly conceived. She is a co-editor of the Open Access Journal of Social Ontology. Her recent monograph, The Wrong of Injustice: Dehumanization and its Role in Feminist Philosophy (OUP, 2016), dealt with feminist philosophy and social injustice. She recently published the book Pornography: A Philosophical Introduction.
“Silencing by not telling: a new form of testimonial epistemic injustice” by Carla Carmona
I propose a new form of testimonial epistemic injustice that takes into account the perspective of the speaker, and not that of the hearer. My idea is that testimonial injustice is not only committed when one does not take someone’s testimony seriously for reasons regarding prejudice. Testimonial injustice also exists in cases in which the speaker does not take seriously the possible receiver of their testimony for reasons regarding identity prejudice. The social location of the knower affects what someone is expected to be able to do with a piece of information. Someone might not be trusted with a piece of information because of the idea that they won’t be able to do anything epistemically relevant with it.
Dr Carla Carmona joined the University of Seville in 2017. She is currently teaching Theory of Dialogue and Interculturality, East Asian Aesthetics and Epistemology. Previously, she was Assistant Professor at the University of Extremadura. She was educated at the University of Seville and the University of Innsbruck. She has specialized in the philosophy of Wittgenstein, in particular in its application to arts and aesthetics, dance education, aesthetic epistemology, embodied cognition and knowing-how, the pictorial oeuvre and Weltanschauung of Egon Schiele and the intellectual and artistic atmosphere of fin-de-siècle Vienna. She currently develops her artistic practice under the name of 0|C.
“Learning from Harm: protective epistemic traits and variations in student self-protection” by Alice Monypenny
There is a tension in educational theory and pedagogy between the duty of educators to protect students from various kinds of harm, and the conviction that being exposed to potential harms is a uniquely valuable means of acquiring certain virtues and skills, such as resilience or ‘grit’, that will aid students when facing challenges beyond education. I discuss the limitations of using potential harmful encounters in the classroom as opportunities for development. To do this, I identify several clusters of protective epistemic character traits – aspects of an individual’s epistemic character which aid them in protecting against potential harms – and argue that we must acknowledgement the socially textured variations in students’ abilities to protect themselves through the development of these traits.
Alice Monypenny received her BA and MA in Philosophy from the University of Bristol and am currently completing my PhD at the University of Nottingham. Her research focuses on the idea of safety within education, particularly on the ways in which safety and harm interact with and develop epistemic character. She also has broader interests in philosophy of language, virtue epistemology, social epistemology and feminist philosophy.
“Epistemic Muteness, Testimonial Evasion, and Disability” by Sage B. Perdue
This paper argues that an account of epistemic muteness can assist in tracking some of the ways in which nondisabled people silence disabled people with respect to testimony. To put forth this argument, the goal of this paper is two-fold. One goal is to give a disability-informed reading of how ‘silence’ has been operationalized in feminist studies and feminist epistemology in opposition to disability. For instance, ‘silence’ is often deployed with the ableist assumption that oral speech is a superior form of communication over other modes of communication. To relieve some of the ableist pressure on silence, the second goal of this paper is to shore up what disability studies can teach us about the experience of being silenced.
Sage Perdue is a master’s student in Philosophy at The George Washington University. He/they is a trans philosopher with research interests in 20th-century continental philosophy (esp. phenomenology), philosophy of disability, disability studies, and social epistemology (esp. epistemic injustice and epistemology of ignorance). He is currently working on a paper project that uses features of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological method of perception to explore ‘epistemic blindness’ as an epistemic advantage rather than an epistemic vice or metaphor for various forms of ignorance. His long-term research interests—in a general way—involve exploring phenomenological questions of epistemological ignorance, and importantly, how phenomenology can reveal some of the ways in which ignorance is sustained, produced, and created by taking disability as the point of departure.
“Our Philosophical Canon Enacts Testimonial Injustice” by Sumeet Patwardhan
Our current philosophical canon provides the basis for the study not of philosophy writ large, but of philosophy written by philosophers with dominant social identities. In my paper, I detail a new kind of argument for diversifying the demographics of our canon. Namely, our canon’s exclusion of works by philosophers with marginalized social identities is a form of testimonial injustice. To argue this, I first note that much of the literature on testimonial injustice has focused on prejudicial attributions of too little credibility to someone’s testimony. I then argue that testimonial injustice also involves prejudicially attributing too little relevance or significance to someone’s testimony. Using this expanded theoretical background, I finally argue that our canon enacts testimonial (relevance) and testimonial (significance) injustices. Works of marginalized philosophers are excluded from the canon due to being prejudicially deemed irrelevant or insignificant.
Sumeet Patwardhan is a 3rd-year Ph.D. student in Philosophy at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. He is particularly interested in philosophical questions concerning power, identity, and oppression. He has written papers about discriminatory forgetting; the diversification of our philosophical canon; unjust attributions of epistemic credit; and sulking as sexual coercion.
Roundtable Discussion Participants
Joe Slater is a lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He works primarily on normative ethics, but also dabbles in applied ethics.
Alana Wilde is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield. Her work focuses specifically on developing an account of mental health related disability and she’s thinking a lot about how best to do that in a way which doesn’t make normative judgements about mental health conditions. Alana is also interested in feminism more generally, in other projects in social metaphysics, and in the philosophy of language.
Pascal Mowla is an aspiring philosopher of a British-Iranian background with research interests in political philosophy, normative ethics and applied philosophy. After an untraditional entry into the subject, Pascal recently completed a conversion MA in philosophy at Birkbeck College and is now set to continue postgraduate studies within philosophy at The London School of Economics and Political Science later this year. Pascal’s masters thesis honed in on the liberal tolerance of involuntary associations and is currently working towards a refined contractualist account of procedural fairness.
Originally from Colorado, Susan Notess is currently a PhD student at Durham University. Previously, Susan was an undergraduate linguistics student at Indiana University. Susan worked for an NGO specialising in ‘community led’ minority language development initiatives, which led to the question of how power imbalances trouble our understanding of communication ethics. Susan’s current project offers a philosophy of interpersonal listening, with a particular focus on issues of silencing and institutional listening/listening in leadership.